Sunday, February 20, 2011

System Override

Today I figured something out about running. Although there's the old adage that your body is really good at telling you what it needs, sometimes your body will lie to you.

I went for a 12 km run this afternoon, and while it was a fine day and lovely in the forest, my bowels were roiling, so I had to push through the pain (and make a mental note of all the possible places to duck into the trees if I suddenly needed to, um, relieve myself). Though my body (specifically my intestines) was telling me (screaming at me) to stop being a fool and just go home, I kept going and made it to the end without any medical emergency or bathroom break. I ran the last lap pretty fast despite the nagging worry about the slightly heavy feeling and intermittent cramping deep in my guts. Maybe it was the waffles and sausages and coffee I had for brunch.

Well, I discovered that, despite the warnings, I did not drop to the ground at the end, clutching my stomach in agony or sprint to the outhouse at the parking lot. Like a twinge in the knee or a cramp in the hamstring, I think sometimes our bodies will try to fake us out when we're running with a little lie about impending toilet problems that end up being nothing but a sly move to get us to slow down or give up. Steve Prefontaine is supposed to have been so successful partly because of his ability to ignore pain. He once won a middle distance race with a badly cut foot. Maybe that's what all runners do -- override the system -- whether it's knee pain or a side cramp, at least to a certain extent. If you can get the most evolutionarily advanced part of your brain to override the lizard part of your brain then you can keep your legs "turning over" as the elite runners like to say, and finish or maybe even win the race.

So today it was 12 km in 1:17, which is a PR for me for that distance... and no diarrhea!

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